Here are five recommended historical novels for young readers about Scandinavian resistance activities in World War II. All involve the children in the stories in key roles to stand up to Nazi German invaders, seeing the difficult choices and dangers through their youthful eyes. All of novels weave factual information about the German occupation, resistance efforts, and Nazi policies into their fictional stories.
These books all reinforce good values, fostering a sense of individual responsibility along with the importance of joint community efforts, while spinning rich stories that are compelling and entertaining.
The Klipfish Code, by Mary Casanova. A story of Norwegian resistance in World War II, involving a 12-year-old girl. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Sandpiper), 2007.
Twelve-year-old Marit is sent to live with her Grandfather and aunt on an outlying island when invading German forces begin bombing and burning her coastal Norwegian city. There she struggles with harsh realities and difficult decisions that threaten the safety of her family and a hidden resistance soldier. She must constantly question who can be trusted and what is the truth.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry. A story of Danish resistance in 1943, told through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl; winner of a 1990 Newbery Medal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Sandpiper), 1989.
Annemarie Johansen feels timid compared to her sassy little sister Kirsti, especially in the presence of occupying German soldiers. Her family’s efforts to help her Jewish friend Ellen Rosen escape the Nazi round-up makes Annemarie aware of the resistance movement and her need to help.
Odin’s Promise, by Sandy Brehl. A story of 11-year-old Mari girl, her elkhound Odin, and the quiet resistance activities that she and her family and neighbors participate in the early years of the German occupation. Crispin Books, 2014.
Set in a small village in western Norway, it focuses on resistance methods used by average Norwegians to make the Germans feel unwelcome while avoiding crossing a line that might lead to reprisals. The villagers collect and share information, create many small obstructions to German efforts, cleverly employ symbolic clothing and graffiti to rally the local spirit of resistance, and often use humor to combat the German propaganda.
Shadow on the Mountain, by Margi Preus. A story of Norwegian resistance in World War II, featuring a 14-year-old boy. Abrams, 2012.
The German occupation of Norway causes fourteen year old Espen and his friend Kjell to take opposites sides. Kjell has joined the youth group serving as junior-soldiers with the invaders, while Espen has taken on a minor role with the resistance group. Both seek to advance in their responsibilities, straining their relationship to the limits.
Snow Treasure, by Marie McSwigan. An exciting classic tale of Norwegian resistance to German occupation in 1940. Scholastic, 1942; re-issued by Puffin Books, 2006.
In the early days of German occupation of Norway, gold reserves from the treasury were hidden in mountain caves, then transported brick by brick to hidden ships through the guise of children sledding and tobogganing past German troops. Weather and other challenges required multiple deceptions during the weeks it took to complete. The entire treasury was, in fact, transported safely to the exiled King Haakon in England to support the Allies in battling Germany and freeing Norway.
Are there other books in this category that we’ve missed? Have you read and especially enjoyed any of the above titles? Let us know via the comments section.